Bishop Says Obama's Address Halted Dialogue

Affirms Need for “Frontal Attack” in Favor of Catholic Values

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri, MAY 22, 2009 ( Although the Notre Dame president spoke hopefully about dialogue, President Barack Obama threw that desire “back in his face,” according to Bishop Robert Finn.

The Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph affirmed this Monday in an interview with the diocesan newspaper regarding the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama at last Sunday’s commencement ceremony.

To date, 83 prelates have publicly denounced the decision as going against 2004 guidelines set by the U.S. bishops’ conference for Catholic institutions of higher education, which state that schools should not bestow honors on individuals who “act in defiance” of the Church’s fundamental teachings.

We cannot give up working with the administration, Bishop Finn said, but “we’re fighting for our lives — literally.”

He continued: “We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly formed conscientious difference with public policy.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas.”

He added, “If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why.”

The prelate commented on the commencement speech by the university president, Father John Jenkins, who employed a series of “very hard words,” such as “division, pride, contempt, demonize, anger, distort, hateful, condemn, hostility.”

These words, he said, might be understood as a “caricature” of the bishops who spoke out against the invitation.

Bishop Finn noted that Father Jenkins’ address focused on encouraging dialogue, and to this end, it referenced Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II’s “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” and the Second Vatican Council.

The prelate affirmed, “Dialogue is important, but the question is fairly raised, ‘May we negotiate about things that are intrinsic evils?’ and I think the answer is no.”

He continued: “The bishops realize the very destructive decisions that President Obama promised to make concerning the life issues, and now has been making in connection with abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. This is serious business; it is about life and death.”

The bishop explained that the scandal of Notre Dame’s decision arises from its “potential of confusing people concerning the Catholic teaching against abortion, and on the priority of abortion among other issues of public policy.”


He noted that in the commencement address, Obama “said that the differences that we have on abortion — namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were ‘irreconcilable.'”

“And at that moment,” the prelate stated, “it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt.”

“Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face,” he added.

Bishop Finn explained: “The president shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion.

“To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear.”

Although some may have seen it as a positive step that Obama spoke about “reducing unintended pregnancies,” the bishop said, “I fear” this will be through the “promotion of Planned Parenthood and contraceptive services.”

He noted the president’s support for the Prevention First Act, which is “not about abstinence education” but rather about “promoting contraception and giving Planned Parenthood a huge blank check.”

“If Catholics don’t see a problem with this,” said Bishop Finn, “then I don’t think they understand the threat it represents to the meaning of marriage, to fidelity, to chastity, to the very sanctity of human life and intimate love.”

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